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Volume 1727a
Jahlanna of Pellucidar
A 175,000-word novel
Sean Edward Phillips
.Part XX

     Clive and his companions were taken to the center of Xunthrah, to the great thrown room of the Mahars. 

     In the center of the room was a massive dais. On this dais were three huge cushions, apparently of something like silk. And upon these sat the giant reptiles, the three who served as the rulers of Xuthrah, and all other Mahars, as well as the sagoth servitors and human slaves. 

    Clive had seen these three before, in the amphitheater, but this time he noticed something about them that had not before. These three representatives of the Mahar race appeared to be larger than the others he had seen—a good deal larger. Not only this, but while the other Mahars were uniform in color, the tooth-edged beaks of these winged monsters were of a vivid yellow ringed by three bands of red. 

      The sagoth guards, having addressed the great Lords, were apparently in the midst of receiving the mental communication with their masters—which would no doubt decide upon the fate of the captives. 

      The conversation between the great winged reptiles lasted for what must have been several moments. Though neither Clive nor the others were given direct communication with the reptiles, Clive was able to sense the pulse of the powerful, uncanny vibrations which hummed silently back and forth between the two gigantic sentient reptilians. And though he could not have said exactly how or why, he sensed that the exchange was bitter, angry, hostile. This perceived hostility seemed to increase, as the fierce mental exchange began seemingly more violent. Clive had the distinct impression that the two monsters were hurtling insults at one another. 

      “I believe the Lords are having a quarrel,” he ventured aloud. 

      “Silence, gilak!” a sagoth guard said. “Do not speak so of the Lords!”

      Clive said nothing more but he smiled inwardly. The sagoth had not refuted his observation. That only gave credence to the possibility that he had been correct. Perhaps these two Lords were rivals for one another’s power. Or maybe, as the Mahars were ruled by a technocracy, the two were scientists who were some kind of feud over rival scientific theories. Clive had head such things happened among human scientists of the surface world. But he and his fellow underlings were not supposed be privy to it, of course, kind of like how professors who loathed each other would take pains to conceal their animosity from students. 

      Alistair Simmons, noticing the difference between the ruling class of Mahars and the others said, “Do you see that these three appear to be of a slightly different species—or subspecies—than the others of the Mahar race we have encountered?”

     “Is that what you think, Doctor?”

     “Actually I am not certain. Perhaps they are. Or it may be that those born with the strikingly marked bills are of a higher caste than the others, as these are the rulers of Zunah.”

     “You may be right,” Clive said.

     “But you know the most likely reason? I’ve observed the same approximate different among the male and female of certain pterosaur species here in Pellucidar. I’ve noticed, in fact, quite a similar sexual dimorphism among the specimens of rhamphorynchus, the same species from which the Mahars are the alleged descendants.”

     “But the Mahars are female. Isn’t that what you’ve told me?”

    “Yes, that’s what I’ve read, what the natives have told us, but….I don’t know. Mahar society consist of females only, as far as we know. But they did not start out that way. Perhaps some males survived or were driven off when the Mahars discovered their Great Secret. Here on this isolated moon, the last males of the species could have survived, and gone on reproducing the natural way.” 

       “You are correct, my friends,” said Ug-na.

        Clive looked at him. “How do you know?” 

        “Because I have lived here long, read much of their scrolls, and have learned the history of this city. The last surviving males of the Mahar race were banished to the Dead World, and other remote lands since time immemorial. They were scientists too, and founded this city. It is ancient, this city, but not so much as the Mahar cities of the surface. They, too, were scientists, and found a chemical means to reproduce. Only in their case, they bred females as well for obvious purposes.”

     “How could they do this, if they had no eggs, or even ovum, which to fertilize?”

    ‘The scrolls tell of this. Since I am a slave in charge of the historical archives, I have been permitted to read of the means. It is difficult to explain—but they have discovered the means to take to living particles of any living thing, and reproduce them in their seething chemical vats. I have seen living creatures, Mahar hatchlings, grown live in these vats. They are nurtured by the thick chemical soup, and fed through clear, hard tubes. Not only are the young of their species created this way. Other animals are birthed as well—including humans, destined to be the slaves of Xuthrah.” 

     Clive shuddered. He regarded Ug-na. Could the old man himself have been born and bred in the vats? No—his name seemed not like one bestowed on him by the Lords. But he thought of the other humans within this hellish city. He thought too, of Tu-rah, the great Mahar who had presided over the city of Zhuma. He had been milky white in color, a pure albino, but his gigantic size led Clive to believe that he had been a surviving male as well. 

     Could this creature be alive here in this city as well? Possibly, somewhere in the crystal caverns below here. The great albino matriarch—or patriarch, as it were—would need to keep away from strong light. 

     ‘The Mahar were once a species ruled by males,” Ug-na explained. “But there was a revolution, sorts, and the female triumphed, the males banished to the unknown reaches of Pellucidar, and to the Dead World. But after the outlander David Innes banished the Mahars form his newly formed gilak empire, the females fled to cities such as this one. But here, the patriarchy has returned.”

     “The Lords wish to converse with you, Red-Hair,” a sagoth guard told Clive, suddenly. 

          Clive stepped forward. 

          The Mahar in the center, the largest one, gazed down upon him. The icy, reptilian orbs burned into his from within their bird-like sockets. Clive realized suddenly that he’d foolishly allowed himself to look directly into the monster’s gaze. 

     But he felt none of the paralyzing effect of the hypnosis frequently employed by the winged reptiles, numbing his brain and robbing his will. Instead, he felt clammy tendrils of cold, alien thought probing deep into the corridors of his mind, penetrating deep beneath the layers of his subconscious thought. The effect was dizzy and nauseous. 

    At last, though the weird tendrils withdrew. He then felt a new wave of alien, reptilian thought press into him. One of the Mahar rulers was speaking to him. It was the one the right, which had apparently won the quarrel, if quarrel it had been. The other Mahar was now hunched in a huff. At least that was as Clive supposed, though the creature’s face was inscrutable. The words in Pellucidaran Common formed in his brain from the Mahar’s mental patterns. Although the Mahar do not generally communicate with mere humans, it seemed he had been singled out as one worthy to converse with such as themselves. 

       You! You are the red-furred animal who staged the slave revolt on Zhuma.

      “That is correct.” Clive said, speaking in thought. 

      Zhuma has been sacked. But some of us have already returned, hoping to salvage some of the valuable scrolls and equipment that were not destroyed.

     Clive said nothing. 

     I have delved deep into your mental records, apeling. You really come from another world. Up until recently, most of my kind regarded the existence world as beyond proof. But your entry through the fissure in the distant lands of ice have shown us otherwise. We are even now preparing to explore, and if profitable to the Mahar race, subjugate your world.

      Clive felt a knot grow in his stomach. He and Simmons, then were responsible, at least in part, for allowing the plans to invade the surface.

     You killed many of us—including a valued scientist you held prisoner in the Nu-al village, red-furred apeling. For that you should die, in spite of your unwitting service to us, and the remarkable specimen that you are.

      “We now only wish to leave this city,” said Clive. “And to search for a girl who is my mate. A slave named Lu-gor, who claimed he was a favorite of yours, I believe to have fled with her.”

    To his surprise, the Mahar said, That is known to us. The one called Lu-gor was able to aide us in determining your whereabouts. But it seems now his treachery has turned upon us, his Masters. 

   “That would serve you right,” Clive said. 

    A sudden metal tidal wave crashed though his brain. With a shout, he fell backward. Simmons caught him. Clive rubbed his head and sat up. 

     Do not be foolish, gilak! We are giving you another chance.

    What is that?

     We believe that the apeling called Lu-gor has stolen something of great value to us, as well. The prototype of a new thought-weapon. It is missing form its casement, and so is Lu-gor. One of the guards had foolishly explained to him what the weapon was, and what it can do. He doubtless plans on returning to the surface with it, to use it for his own selfish designs. 

              Clive remembered the strange, futuristic weapon that Lu-gor had so brazenly wielded. “What do you ask of me?”
        What do you suppose, foolish apeling? You want your mate. We want our weapon. We will allow you to track the gilak Lu-gor down for us. If you agree, we will guarantee the freedom of your comrades.

     Clive considered his options. It was Lu-gor, a cowardly brute, who had stolen the weapon. But it was a good thing that it was out of the slimy talons of these conquering reptiles. Under any other circumstances, to agree to return it would seem treasonous; for the Mahars doubtless planed on using it for war on Sari, supplying like weapons to squadrons of sagoth troops. But it was Jahlanna, the beautiful girl who was the love of his life, who was now in Lu-gor’s savage hands—and this thought was unbearable. This was undoubtedly the best option for escape. The Mahar would doubtless eventually craft more such weapons anyway–though it might take them longer. And Lu-gor would use his newfound power to no good. He had to go along with the plan, he decided—at first. Then he had to find some way to escape with the Mahar’s weapon. But how?”

    So you agree? 

   “I do,” Clive said. 

    Remember, manling. We shall be tracing your thought patterns from the air.  If you attempt to flee with the weapon, you shall die.

     “I understand,” Clive said. This time he forceably suppressed any plans of not returning the weapon once it was recovered. 

     I am most pleased, apeling. You shall not regret your decision. My servants shall escort you to one of the airships.

      Clive and his companions were escorted back through the twisted corridors of Xuthrah. They were then marched up out of the city and into the thick, blue forests of the jungle moon. They were led down a trail, obviously of artifical make, and to what was essentially an airfield. 

     The sight of it drew cries of astonishment from Clive and Simmons. There were several great ships that seemed somewhat like dirigibles. Obviously the ships had been designed by the Mahars by means of blueprints, and constructed by sagoth, human and Wur-gal slaves. 

      They resembled small zeppelins, only of alien design, with flaring “wings” on the sides, and ornately embellished on the sides with reliefs of pterosaurs. Each was capable of carrying a handful of sagoth or human warriors. If the Mahars developed an armada of such weapons, they could easily have advantage over David Innes.

    What had given the scientists of Zunah the idea for these? Possibly it was great zeppelin 0-220, which had reportedly transported the fabled Englishman gone native in Africa, Lord Greystoke, better known as Tarzan of the Apes, to Pellucidar long ago. The Mahars must have learned of it, and sought to create such an airborne transport themselves. 

     The belly of one of the ornate airships opened into a ramp. Once Clive and his companions boarded, the ship drew off the ground and into the skies above the Dead World, bound for the teeming surface of Pellucidar. 

      The mighty thipdar flapped through the misty “skies” of Pellucidar.  At the reins of the great beast was the cowardly Lu-gor. He was untrained in piloting the great reptile, and the beast’s flight was erratic. 

   But Lu-gor’s breast swelled with confidence, for he had captured the beautiful Jahlanna from beneath the nose of the strange red-haired warrior. The girl protested loudly that no man not of her choice dare touch her, though now she dared not struggle. But Lu-gor held her down firmly—a good thing as they were now far above the reeling surface of Pellucidar. But this also gave him opportunity to fondly the soft, sturdy flesh of her massive rump with his course calloused paws. And for someone she hated, as she did Lu-gor, this was an indignity beyond belief. 

    The awesome terrain of the inner earth reeled and dipped below them. Jahlanna had been in such a situation before, of course, when she had been abducted by Blorg of the Mulag, and taken to the cliff city.

     With some difficulty, the caveman was able to land the mighty pterosaur in a glade of thick, spongy grass in a copse of trees. Not wanting anymore to do with the flying reptile, he hoisted his struggling captive over one burly shoulder and fled into the trees. Jahlanna was beating his rough back with her dainty fists, scratching at him with her nails. But her strength was as of a child’s compared to that of her burly captor. 

         At last, when the burst into another clearing, Lu-gor through her roughly to the turf. 

“Leave me alone!” Jahlanna shrieked. 

     “Never, my comely, large rumped she!” he smirked at her. “You will now be Lu-gor’s mate! You will return with me to O-lar. There the other males will see the beautiful mate of Lu-gor, and he will be the envy of all males of his tribe!”

      “You are a fool, then, as well as a coward, to think that I would ever mate with you!”

      Lu-gor tore away his loincloth. “I did not ask for your permission, girl!” 

     The thought of him penetrating her girlhood made Jahlanna want to retch. Before, she had had the hideous Skurg threaten her like this—but this time Clive, whom she had then recently spurned, had intervened and killed him. Now Clive was far away in the city of the Dead World. 

     She tried to flee, but the brutal O-lar rushed forward and slapped her heavily. With a shrieking sob, the girl fell to the ground. The cave-man seized her wrists as she struggled and cried, vainly attempting to defend herself. 

      “Now, “princess,” he laughed, “You will learn to call Lu-gor master!”

     “I will never give you pleasure!” the girl hissed suddenly through her fine teeth. 

     Lu-gor chortled, forcing her down. 

      “I will give you pain!” With that, Jahlanna brought up one massive thigh, slamming Lu-gor in the balls. The man screamed, falling on his back, clutching at his ruined testicles, his mind exploding with pain. Jahlanna had not just managed to whack him in the nuts—thanks to the heaviness of her thigh, she had virtually squashed them. 

      The girl bolted into the trees. Behind her, she heard Lu-gor’s screams of pain and rage. She realized that she might well have ruptured the balls of Lu-gor’s manhood.  Good. She told herself. She fled deeper into the forest. Birds and diminutive flying reptiles flapped about her. Diminutive orthopi, and small scurrying lizards fled from her path. 

  She heard a roar of rage from a man’s throat. It was far behind her, but she knew it was Lu-gor. The man had recovered enough to pursue her. 

    The girl began to zigzag in her flight, hoping against hope to throw the man off. She turned one way in the maze of thickets, fled for a distance, then veered off in a new direction. 

    Behind her, the brutal Lu-gor doggedly pursued. Silently, the outraged man vowed that he would beat her very soundly once he caught her. The spoiled princess needed the fight taken out of her, if she was to be his pleasure slave—and he fully intended to make her just that. The girl’s trail was a fairly easy one to follow—the prints of her small toes easily discernible in the soft mulch. His flight was slow and stiff, however, as his testicles were badly swollen, bulging and red. The pain in them had begun to subside though, and soon, he would overtake the girl. 

        Abruptly, Jahlanna burst out of the forest onto an open, parklike land. There were clusters of trees, ginkos, acacias, and Jurassic conifers, dotted here and there. The girl ran on. 

     When her pursuer emerged form the forest, he could just make out the girl’s fleeing form ahead of him. His strength recovered, the man roared and charged after her. Now the man was closing the gap. Jahlanna, hampered by the size and weight of her hips, was slowly losing ground to her brutal pursuer. As he began closing the gap between Jahlanna and himself, a shadow fell over Lu-gor. 
    The man looked up—and screamed. 

     Above them was a huge and mighty thipdar, one of those great flying dragons of the Dawn Age. It was a gigantic specimen, its wingspread more than forty feet. It was not one of the beasts used by the Mahars or those who served them. This was undoubtedly a wild beast seeking fresh game—which it had found. 

     The Nu-al princess whirled her lovely face to the heavens, and she, too, screamed. 

     It was Lu-gor however, who reacted in the most sensible fashion given the circumstances, though he had done so out of cowardice. He through himself, quaking, to the ground, burying his ugly face in the grasses and moaning piteously. 

     Jahlanna, however, ran on, heading at once, for the nearest cluster of trees where the grasping talons of the flying lizard would be unable to reach her. But the voluptuous girl had slowed considerably in her flight, and presented an easy target to the aerial monster. 

     The winged beast hove in for her, its primitive brain discounting Lu-gor, as it cupped its mighty wings in the manner of an eagle swooping upon a fleeing hare, stretching its bird-clawed talons for the girl. Jahlanna whirled and screamed in the last instant before the reptile seized her around her slender torso. Then, vast leathern pinions churning mightily, the monster lifted off, bearing with it its shrieking, struggling captive. 

     Lu-gor, hearing the monster’s wing beats grow faint, along with the screams and cries of the girl, realized that he was no longer the monster’s prey. 

          He watched helplessly, as his prize was borne off, doubtless to serve as either a meal for the hideous flying reptile, or for its brood of hideous young. Either way, it was a terrible waste of superb girl-flesh, and despite his cowardice, Lu-gor did not intend to give it up. 

     He saw then that the beast was flying in the direction of the land of Awful Shadow. 

     Lu-gor began to lope in pursuit. If there was some chance that Jahlanna might survive, however slim, he would be the one to claim her. 

     As Jahlanna was borne aloft, the world reeled about her. As terrified as the young princess was, part of her realized that it was doubtless better this way, for she feared the vile manhood of Lu-gor far more than even the talons of mighty winged reptile. Of all the hideous captivities the lovely princess had thus far endured, the present one, horrific as it was, was bound to be the most merciful in the end. 

       Then she saw where the monster was bearing her, and her mind reeled with a new and fresh horror, which up until now, she did not realize she was capable of experiencing. 

    The thipdar was flying in the direction of the Land of Awful Shadow, that dreadsome country beneath the Dead World, forever entrenched in everlasting darkness. Though it lay many leagues from her homeland, she had heard many dreadsome tales of it. No man seemed to know just what lay beneath the grim shadow of Pellucidar’s moon. And so speculation gave way to wild fantasy. There were tales of a world ruled by monsters, of a land where the spirits of dead men stalked the living. Jahlanna had often shuddered to here those tales, told by the warriors of her father’s tribe, often at times when, as a child she listened in to what her ears were not meant to hear, when none of the grown ups expected. It had filled the young girl-child, and future princess with a shuddersome delight that was enjoyable within the grand hut of her father. 

    But never in her young life did the princess ever believe that she would be borne to that awful region against her will in the talons of a dreadful monster of Time’s Dawn. The very thought caused the girl’s mind to reel toward madness. 

          She was now far above the upcurving surface of the world, and if the monster released her would mean instant death. The beast flew onward, burdened by the weight of its voluptuous captive. It was now nearly within the darksome shadow cast by the globular planetoid looming vastly above. It was, the girl’s terror dazed mind recognized, flapping its mighty wings in the direction of a crest of mountains within the perimeter of the shadow-blanketed land. They speared up mightily, soaring towers of stone. She could see other winged shapes, the forms of other thipdars. There were, she saw thick multitudes of the great reptiles flapping about the huge pinnacles of rock. 

      The thipdar, propelled by the titanic strokes of its mighty wings, made toward a particular cliff, in a high and lofty wall of granite. The girl could see that there were many great nests there. Nests belonging to the great flying reptiles. She could make out the squabbling forms of the hideous reptilian young awaiting the bounty of their monstrous parents’ hunting forays. Jahlanna’s heart suddenly felt a strange calm. Soon it would be over. She prayed to the gods of her people that her spirit might be united with that of her flame haired warrior when they met in the afterlife. 

    There was abruptly, another scream, also from a predatory saurian of the skies. 

    The captive girl twisted her slender neck about, and saw, coming in her direction, another giant flying saurian, this one a bit smaller than the one that held her, but large enough. 

    Her thipdar gave an answering scream, and Jahlanna knew the two beasts were about to clash in awful combat. 

     And the prize of the death-duel, to be fought hundreds of leagues above the surface of the land of Awful Shadow, was-- herself!

     The challenging pterosaur, though not so large as the giant pteranodon, in whose awful grasp the Nu-al princess was helpless, was nevertheless of awesome size. Its broad beak was heavy and blunt-shaped, less elongated than the thipdar’s. It was filled with a terrible number long sharp teeth. Like the Mahar, it was long-tailed. This was a dimorphodon of the Triassic, or grakor, a species of flying reptile which shared the mountain heights with the thipdar, and oft times competed with them for prey and nesting space. 

     Uttering an ear-splitting screech, the dimophodon hove to the attack. The thipdar released one of is talons, as it prepared to meet the challenger, holding the cavegirl in one talon. The grakor dove upon its enemy, talons outstretched. The two great flying reptiles clashed giving vent to shattering screams, raking with their claws and fangs. The din of their giant wings boomed in the girl’s ears, as she was rocked dizzyingly back and forth, still in the pterosaur’s awful grip. 

     The flying beasts flapping out of one another’s reach. They circled, veering widely, then closed in again for the attack. Again thipdar and grakor clashed, rending the air with their screams of combat, ripping at each other with fang and talon. 

     The great pteranodon, its huge wings ripped and slashed by its aerial assailant, beat frantically at the air, losing precious altitude. The grakor gave a croaking squawk, and attacked the wounded giant once more. This time, as the two pterosaurs clashed, the thipdar was forced to release its captive. The cave girl plummeted. 

      Jahlanna screamed as the land below rushed up to crush her. 

      The dimorphodon wasted not a moment’s time. The grakor hurtled itself into a dive to intercept the hurtling princess. Claws shot out. Jahlanna found herself suddenly yanked to a halt in mid air. 

     The grakor had caught her!

     Wings beating like thunder, the pterosaur flapped toward its own nesting site. 

     But even now, the wounded thipdar, flapped to intercept the pirate pterosaur. The gakor raced to outdistance its larger pursuer. But the thipdar’s mighty jaws seized the left wing of its foe. The grakor gave a squawk of defiance, as the other beat yanked it off balance, nearly tearing the wing from its socket.  The grakor’s talons released Jahlanna 

     The girl fell. 

     As the wounded pterosaur flapped furiously its injured wing to keep itself aloft, the girl was hurtling down and down, beyond the reach of either of the winged beasts. The dazed impression she had of the land below was a weird, otherworldly jungle of alien vegetation. Then she was crashing through it, her limp form hurtling through layers and layers of canopy.

    The shock caused her to reach out to grab at the branches and vines that whipped past her. As she pulled at them, she had some success at breaking the rate of her fall. But the vines snapped and broke as she plummeted on. 

    At last she broke through a thick layer of vegetation to smack thickly into a soft, spongy, and yielding surface. Though the impact was by now much reduced, the shock of the abrupt landing caused the girl to momentarily black out. 

    When she next awoke, following some indeterminable time, Jahlanna sat up. She had landed she discovered, on a vast and pliant bed of some kind. There were others of these "beds” all about her. It was a great soft mushroom that she had landed upon. It was huge and soft, and actually quite comfortable, the ideal thing to stop her death-plunge. 

    The gods, Jahlanna thought. Even after all she had endured, the gods still had to be watching over her to provide her with this forest of giant mushrooms, right below where the pterosaurs had battled. 

    The girl slid off the growth. She gazed all around herself in awe and wonder. 

    All about her grew a veritable forest of monstrous fungi, rising gigantically about her in an incredible forest.  Their stems were as thick and big around as tree trunks. Their caps, a dull crimson, spotted with yellow, were broad enough to hide the surface of the Dead World far above. 

    Yes, the Dead World. Jahlanna realized now, with a thrill of horror, that she was now trapped within the Land of Awful Shadow, that dreadsome and weird country of legend and myth. And not a single warrior was here to protect her. 

      Everything about her was swathed in gloom. The only light, she now saw, was provide by the weird fungi themselves, whose broad caps gave off uncanny illumination. Their stems glowed as well, giving the girl enough light for her to make her way. 

   She still knew in which direction her homeland lay. But would she ever escape the dreadful country of Awful Shadow?

       Jahlanna began walking. And as she did so, someone else was spying on the helpless girl from afar. This was being done with a strange technology far beyond the jungle girl’s imagining. The unseen observer was examining her through a powerful telescopic lens from somewhere within the confines of the Land of Awful Shadow. 

       Jahlanna had not ventured far, gazing about herself in eerie wonder, when the moldy ground in front of her suddenly erupted. The primeval maid sprang back with a shriek. Something grayish pushed itself through. It was hideous, and formed like a man. When Jahlanna saw it, she screamed. 

     It rose up, hideously, in front of her, moldy dirt showering from its broad and sloping shoulders. 

     The girl was horrified and rooted to the spot, her slim white arms flung out helplessly in front of her. Another scream was slowly building within her windpipe, threatening to burst into a full-throat shriek of feminine terror at the sight of the thing. 

     It appeared to be the animated corpse of a man in the early stages of decay.  The grayish-yellow skin that covered the thing was like parchment, and appeared to be peeling and rotting away at the edges. The things’ face was the worst. The cheeks were sunken and one hideous eye looked swollen and swiveled about, the one small pupil, training upon the terrorized girl. It leered hideously at the girl. The other eye was a mere crease or slit. The lips seemed to have rotted away form the mouth, leaving teeth and gums exposed like the grimace of a skull. It seemed to grin horribly at Jahlanna as it shambled foreword on bony legs, its boney arms, equipped with talon-like nails, extended. 

    The girl did scream then, long and loud. 

   But as the cave-princess whirled to flee, she saw, with a shriek, another hideous zombie-thing burst through the moldy dirt in front of her. The zombie-thing gazed up at her in horrid undead lust on its horrible countenance. 

        Jahlanna whirled around, shielding her eyes form the sight, only to be greeted by another zombie thing…and another…and another. 

    The things were emerging from the ground on all sides of the frenzied girl. Jahlanna threw up her arms to ward them off, but it would do no good. They were closing in on her. Thin, desiccated beings they were, with long boney arms and limbs. Oddly enough, they wore loincloths, like those of true men about their scrawny thighs. These were of dirty animal hides. 

      As if the girl was not terrorized enough, she heard them being to mumble and then to speak. And, gods, help her, she could understand the words! 

       “Girl….capture….make slave…”

      “Ours….girl is ours….ours to keep forever…and ever…

      “Take…girl…lovely girl…make her ours…..”

      The words were in some broken form of Pellucidaran Common, slow, slurred, and gloating. They knew the girl could not possibly escape.

        “Girl. Lovely. Make her mine….make her Torag’s..”

       She was gripped in such horror as she had never experienced, not even in the tunnels of the groags. 

     The beautiful young princess could stand no more. Mercifully, she collapsed into a swoon, just as the horrors closed over her. The swarmed over the prostrate girl, fingering her soft, firm flesh. Jahlanna gave a low moan of horror, some part of her still aware of the numbing awfulness that had engulfed. It was the moan of a sweet young thing trapped in nightmare loathsome beyond her comprehension 

   The zombie things were laughing and croaking, gloating in foul derision. 

    “No!” commanded another. “To not touch her, Torag…we are not to mate with her…at least not yet!”

    “Torag will mate this girl!”

    “No—we take her to God!”

    “Yes…God…God!” said Torag, apparently his lust temporarily abandoned. 

    “God! God God!”

   The gurgled cry went up form the massed zombie men, as they lifted the princess, and bore her voluptuous young form away into the darkness of the mushroom forest. 

      Lu-gor approached the Land of Awful Shadow. When he reached of that strange country, he hesitated. As the brutal O-lar had long lived within the glare of Pellucdar’s noontime sun, the dark land before him seemed very foreboding. Ordinarily, the cowardly man would not have dared venture within, for there were told of strange men and monsters who resided there. 

       But from afar he had seen the pterosaurs battle for the possession of the cave-princess. And he had also seen the small form topple from one to be seized by the other. The aerial battle had them receded to behind a wall of cliff from Lu-gor’s perspective, and the he had lost sight of it. But there raised the hope that the girl could have survived, and if so, he would be the one to claim her. 

      He strode boldly into the shadowed country and headed in the direction he had seen the duel between aerial monsters take place. 

      Here the lush grasses ended, and a barren, rocky terrain began. But slowly, in the absence of the more familiar plant life, strange, alien forms began emerge. The ground was carpeted with a lichen-like mold, sparsely at first, and then in a tick layer. Small weird growths that appeared to be varieties of fungi began to spring up. There were those of the more familiar mushroom and toadstool family. Then there were other weirder forms, some like strange, colorless ferns. 

     The riot of mold and fungi slowly grew into a dense jungle of alien vegetation. Though Lu-gor could not have understood the science of it, these flourished here in the absence of light because they lacked chlorophyl and relied on other means to persist in this world of gloom. Strange fauna existed here as well, and Lu-gor saw unnervingly huge insects and spider-like things cross his path.

     There was a rustle to his side. 

     The caveman whirled around. He saw emerging form the gloom of the weird stalks an army of things that looked like men. They were surrounding him. By their shambling gate and weird form, they were no normal men. Lu-gor gasped in horror as the first one came into the shallow light. 

     Its appearance was hideous, like one that was dead. The man—if that was indeed what it was—had a visage that was indescribably hideous. Its cheeks were sunken, its skin like the parchment on a mummy. It appeared as one whose features had rotted away. Its eyeballs swiveled hideously in their sockets in a strange imitation of life. The thing shambled forward on boney, elongated legs. The lips appeared to have rotted completely away form the teeth and gums, leaving a skull-like and ghastly grin. Its arms, too, were of a hideously boney appearance. The chest cavity was sunken, and the skin had the awful appearance of decayed jaundice. A few scraggly wisps of blackish hair persisted on the skull. 

    Lu-gor gave a wild scram and tuned to run. But he was now surrounded by the things. They were closing in on both sides of him. 

     He did not even think to fire the weapon in his possession. Instead he reeled back. And more by accident than design, his thumb squeezed the trigger on the Mahar weapon. And a beam, invisible to the naked eye, shot forth, killing one of the zombie folk. 

      The strange beings drew back, muttering in their own tongue. 

      Lu-gor, trembling, dared to look. 

      The zombie-things were glancing form their fallen comrade to him, muttering to themselves. He realized that he could understand them. They were speaking a dialect of Pellucidaran Common, but one more crude then the one he spoke, indicating that it was perhaps a degenerate form. 

    The man on the ground was indeed very dead. The others were prodding him to make certain of this, but he did not move. 
     So these were not spirits of the undead, after all! 

     Nor were they the dead themselves come back through some primitive sorcery, as was his second thought. In spite of their appearance, Lu-gor realized they were flesh and blood beings like himself, and that they could be harmed. 

        What’s more, they were now regarding him with what could only be called abject worship. At a motion form the one who appeared to be their leader, the zombie-men kneeled down in front of him. The prostrated themselves, moaning in their strange archaic tongue. 

    And a slow, crafty smile crossed Lu-gor’s lips. 


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